If you’ve ever had plantar fasciitis, you probably realized it right away. For me, I knew something was wrong when every morning, my first seven steps out of bed were excruciating because of the pain in the arch of my foot. But magically, after those first few steps, the pain had disappeared and I no longer had to hobble flat-footed around my apartment — and that relief tricked me into thinking “Hmmm, maybe I don’t need to see a doctor for this” for months at a time.
Eric Owens of Delos Therapy lives to make sure you aren’t as dumb as I am.
What is plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis, he explains to me, is a really common cause of heel pain located on the bottom of the foot in the heel.
“Your foot is muscular,” he tells me. “There are four layers of muscle in the foot alone, with multiple muscles in each layer, so there’s lots of fascia [editor’s note: fascia is the band of connective tissue that surrounds muscles and other organs].”
What causes plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis occurs when that plantar fascia thickens and toughens, either from repetitive use or by straining the ligaments that support your arch. Tight calves and tight Achilles can also cause plantar fasciitis.
Another set of circumstances that can lead to plantar fasciitis? Spending tons of time on your feet, or — you guessed it — running.
“As weather warms up and people start running, we see [plantar fasciitis] more often,” Owens acknowledges.
Left alone, plantar fasciitis could turn into a stress fracture, or you could tear your fascia. But usually, Owens reveals, the pain from plantar fasciitis gets so bad that you’re unable to walk, let alone run.
How do you treat plantar fasciitis?
The standard prescribed regimen is rest and ice (I found some relief by sticking a bottled water in the freezer and rolling that under my arches), but Owens says that applying pressure to restore muscle pliability can get you back to running much faster than if you were to just take a few weeks off running.
And as for prevention, Owens recommends a self-diagnostic evaluation every six months or so to check for tightness in your calves and Achilles. To do this, simply press into the sole of your foot and see if that triggers any feelings of hard or sensitive muscle tissue.
“You don’t develop plantar fasciitis overnight – it’s an accumulation of tightness. There are ways to prevent it, signs and symptoms you can look for instead of waiting until it hurts too badly to run,” educates Owens.
“[Pain] is no different than waiting until you have a cavity to go to the dentist,” he explains. After all, you see the dentist roughly every six months for a cleaning and routine exam, so you have plenty of warning if a cavity is on its way. The same concept applies to pain management and muscle imbalances.
But what about shoes?
Ah, yes, shoes. Everyone loves blaming shoes for various foot pains and aches (after all, any excuse to get a new pair, right?).
And Owens agrees that shoes have an impact on your muscle pliability — to a point.
“Shoes might have something to do with it, if you’re wearing shoes that don’t support your gait or foot,” Owens acknowledges. “That might cause muscles to tighten at a quicker rate, but the shoe is secondary. If muscle tissue is healthy, you can run in many types of shoes.
“Think about when you were a kid – it didn’t matter what shoe you ran in. As an adult, years of wear and tear cause your muscles to lock up. We tend to conclude that the shoe is to blame, when really you’ve lost your muscle pliability. Yes, the shoe is still important, but think of pliability first, then do a gait analysis and anatomical analysis so that whatever anatomical shape the foot is in, your shoe can conform to that.”
One last thing to note, according to Owens: if you come to Delos for plantar fasciitis treatment, and you’ve been running in certain shoes or orthotics, you’ll probably need to change footwear once treatment is complete. That’s because Delos treatment actually changes your anatomy — so the stuff you were wearing before won’t be effective.
Ready to take things into your own hands (and thumbs)? Here’s how Delos can help treat plantar fasciitis, plus what you can do with a lacrosse ball at home.
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